Essay on Candide, by Voltaire

Essay on Candide, by Voltaire

A Screenplay by DevTheDeviant

Candide by Voltaire a French Philosophe is a story that follows a naive main character named Candide, his adventures around the world, and his pursuit for his beloved Cundegonde. Through out the story Voltaire uses Enlightenment themes to show his appreciation for It and recognizes the good the Enlightenment can do, yet at the same time he accepts some faults with Enlightenment and openly critises them.

Candide is a product of the Enlightenment in the sense of how it critises traditional institutions. Voltaire criticizes the miltitary, the military is designed to serve the king, yet it's harsh unforgiving nature nearly gets Candide killed. The king recognizes Candide as a valuable asset and spares his life and pays for his recovery cost after his men nearly kill him: "The King of the Bulgarians passed at this moment and ascertained the nature of the crime. As he had great talent, he understood from all that he learnt of Candide that he was a young metaphysician, extremely ignorant of the things of this world, and he accorded him his pardon" (II, 8). Voltaire also mocks how the militaries conduct themselves, when Candide learns for his tutor Pangloss (after his home has been plundered) that instead of fighting each other to end the war they are content to walk past each other and pillage villages: "we have had our revenge, for the Abares have done the very same thing to a neighbouring barony, which belonged to a Bulgarian lord." ( IV, 14). Voltaire also mocks the church by having them use an auto-da-fé where people are burned alive, hanged, and whipped to prevent more earthquakes: "it had been decided by the University of Coimbra, that the burning of a few people alive by a slow fire, and with great ceremony, is an infallible secret to hinder the earth from quaking" (VI, 24).

One of the big ideals of the Enlightenment is thinking for yourself, over the course of the story Candide has to come to grips that his tutor's overly optimistic "best of all possible worlds" philosophy is wrong. When Candide in on a ship with a old wise woman, she tells him everybody thinks they've had a hard life, possibly the hardest. When Candide finds she is right, he can not come up with much rebutte using Pangloss's philosophy: " 'It is a great pity,' said Candide, 'that the sage Pangloss was hanged contrary to custom at an auto-da-fé' " (XIII, 54). Candide's own statement hurts his claim. He talks about how things went contrary to the normal for a negative change, in the "best of all possible worlds".

Voltaire also has a disgust of how this world is not Enlighented, or rather does not always use sufficient reason. When Candide asks him what "sufficent reason" gave his tutor the plague, he comes up with a pretty poor answer: " 'it was a thing unavoidable, a necessary ingredient in the best of worlds; for if Columbus had not in an island of America caught this disease, which contaminates the source of life, frequently even hinders generation, and which is evidently opposed to the great end of nature, we should have neither chocolate nor cochineal.' " (IV, 15). Essentially Candide's tutor Pangloss got the plague so other generations could eat chocolate. Voltaire later using Panglossian logic, or lack there of, takes away an eye and a ear from him: "In the cure Pangloss lost only an eye and an ear" (IV, 16).

Voltaire however is capable of accepting the flaws of the Enlightenment. Candide often implores logic that doesn't really work. He knows that he was forced into conscription by the king's men yet he tells himself he has the right to go on a walk off base anyways: "He resolved one fine day in spring to go for a walk, marching straight before him, believing that it was a privilege of the human as well as of the animal species to make use of their legs as they pleased" (II, 7). When they tell him to pick a punishment he weakly tries to argue that he shouldn't have to beause human will is free: "He vainly said that human will is free, and that he chose neither the one nor the other" (IV, 7). When Candide and Cundegonde are robbed of their jewels Candide tries to argue, using reason that they should have been left something: " 'dear Pangloss has often demonstrated to me that the goods of this world are common to all men, and that each has an equal right to them. But according to these principles the Grey Friar ought to have left us enough to carry us through our journey. Have you nothing at all left, my dear Cunegonde?' " (X, 38), but of course they were left nothing.

Volatire's Candide is definitely a product of the Enlightenment. Voltaire tries to share the elements of the Enlightenment that he thinks we should adopt. This does not allows him to be blind to its flaws and openly admits certain acspects of the Enlighenment wouldn't work. In many ways this is a satire of the human nature about how true Enlightenment ideals could notwork in our corrupted society.

© 2017 DevTheDeviant

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Added on December 7, 2017
Last Updated on December 7, 2017



I have written a number of educational essays. However, I am now working on a Medieval Fantasy series featuring Dwarves, Orcs, and Elves. more..